Liverpool’s Sadio Mane marked his return from injury with a late goal to break Norwich City’s resistance and secure a 1-0 win on Saturday to extend his side’s Premier League lead to 25 points.
On a windy evening, bottom club Norwich were proving a tough nut to crack for Juergen Klopp’s team but Senegalese forward Mane, who came on as a substitute on the hour, pounced to drill home a fine finish from inside the area in the 78th minute.
It was his first appearance since going off injured in Liverpool’s win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Jan. 23 and he marked it by claiming a 100th goal in English football.
A battling Norwich had defended resolutely and twice came close to taking the lead, but Liverpool’s relentless romp towards a first English title for 30 years continued.
Victory was their 34th in their last 35 league games and their 17th in succession, one shy of Manchester City’s record.
They have scored in 35 successive Premier League games, are unbeaten in their last 43 and have conceded only once in their last 11 league games.
Fifteen more points will guarantee them the title as they have collected 76 points out of a possible 78, now 25 ahead of Manchester City, who have played a game less.
“It was a difficult game for different reasons,” Klopp said. “The wind, the organisation of the opponent and the way we played in the first half made it tricky for us.
“Sadio was fresh and made the difference.”
Norwich, for whom Alexander Tettey struck the woodwork in the second half, remain seven points adrift of 17th-placed Aston Villa who host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
They battled until the end, however, and Teemu Pukki fired straight at Alisson in the 89th minute after a flowing move.
Liverpool began the match 55 points ahead of Norwich, the biggest ever gap between top and bottom after 25 games in the Premier League, but lacked their usual cutting edge.
They enjoyed overwhelming territorial superiority in the first half with Trent Alexander-Arnold especially dangerous in the wide open spaces down the right flank.
Yet Liverpool struggled to create clear-cut chances and it was Norwich who should have taken the lead when Lukas Rupp was picked out by a long ball with the visiting defence nowhere, having pushed up for offside.
Rupp’s attempted lay-off to Pukki, though, was superbly read by Alisson, who spared his side’s blushes.
“It was a must goal,” Farke said of the glaring chance. “Two-on-one on the keeper. We should have been a bit more tidy.”
The second half was a Liverpool siege with keeper Tim Krul saving Norwich several times. The Dutchman produced a fingertip save to keep out Naby Keita’s powerful effort then a magnificent double stop to deny Mohamed Salah and Keita again.
Norwich’s excursions into Liverpool territory were few and far between but one ended with Tettey’s slightly miscued effort thudding against Alisson’s near post.
It was Mane, on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who eventually broke the deadlock with a superb finish.
Bringing down Jordan Henderson’s flighted pass with his outstretched right leg, he then swivelled and crashed a low shot with his left foot past the helpless Krul.
There was a suspicion that Mane had pushed a marker as he brought the ball down, but VAR ruled in his favour.
With the title virtually assured, Liverpool turn their attention to their defence of the Champions League on Tuesday when they visit Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, scene of their triumph in the final last season.
Vydra stunner gives Burnley win at Southampton
Matej Vydra's stunning strike earned Burnley a 2-1 victory at Southampton to move them into the top half of the Premier League table on a wet and wild Saturday at St Mary's Stadium.
The Czech player, who replaced injured Burnley striker Chris Wood midway through the opening half, had hardly had a sniff of goal but produced a dazzling finish on the hour.
It was a sickener for Southampton, who had looked the more likely winners after former Burnley player Danny Ings had equalised in the 18th minute with his 15th goal of the season.
Burnley had taken the lead in the second minute with a bizarre curled goal straight from a corner taken by Ashley Westwood.
Vydra won it when he chested the ball down on the edge of the area and edged it past a Southampton defender before stretching to crash a left-foot shot past keeper Alex McCarthy.
Burnley hung on relatively comfortably as Southampton struggled to create much in a strengthening wind.
A third win in their last four league games lifted Burnley into 10th place with 34 points from 26 games, while Southampton remained in 13th place on 31 points.